As the holidays approach, the year ends and a new era looms, I can't help but draw parallels between Frank Capra's heartwarming holiday epic "It's a Wonderful Life" and this year's corporate-sponsored elections.
Bedford falls, like our own towns and country, is a place of neighbors trying to take care of one another. George Bailey builds homes for and has relationships with his neighbors, who are a diverse group of whites, blacks and immigrants. Mr. Potter, the corporate villain, is a heartless, greedy tyrant willing to spend any amount of money to control the Bailey Building and Loan, as well as to corrupt George and bring him over to the dark side (insert any hero mythology here). He ridicules George for being a generous sucker (bleeding heart) and for his idealistic notion that everyone is happier, healthier and wealthier when people have the opportunity to build and own their own homes, businesses and futures.
The story contains the eerie similarity of Mr. Potter lying to seduce George, then stealing the bank deposit, causing a run on the bank and the ensuing fear, chaos and distrust that follows. Sound familiar? Even honest George is terrified enough to momentarily be tempted by Mr. Potter's offer to make him safe and rich, until he realizes that by doing so he'd be letting his neighbors fall victim to Potter's tyranny.
Like us, he feels there is no way out. The corruption has won. He can't make a difference, so he has no choice but to disappear. Ah, but then Capra, in his genius, shows us what happens when people give up. Sweet, friendly Bedford Falls becomes ugly, corrupt Pottersville. And although it seems bustling and prosperous, it's a dark and violent place, devoid of humanity, where citizens are indifferent to each other's suffering and only look out for themselves. But the forces of good are on George's side, showing him ultimately that his investment in his town, and his neighbors, is well founded. They come to his rescue, in all their diversity, validating his life and his humanity.
Do you think any of us would watch this year after year if greed and hatred — I mean Mr. Potter — had prevailed? Would Bedford Falls have stayed the same caring place without George's involvement? When you don't participate in your own government, demean the process, or indulge your personal voting fancies at everyone's expense because you've fallen for the lie that it won't matter and you can't make a difference — think of George Bailey. Don't be intimidated by the corporate-owned thugs who are taking their seats at the banquet table. "You get the government you deserve," as Alexis de Tocqueville wrote. If we don't stand up to these bullies now and show up to vote come mid-terms, we'll change the Frank Capra ending, wake up in Pottersville and want to jump off a bridge.